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Inside a Captive Audience Meeting

Union-buster came in to talk to these Bronx workers, they started filming

Brian Young's picture
Dec 06, 2021

When a company finds out that their employees are beginning to talk union, a company can either accept it and recognize the union, stay neutral and let the workers vote in or reject the union, or they can call-in high-priced lawyers to lead a campaign against the union. These lawyers and consultants will then start a campaign to dissuade workers from joining a union.

Some of the things they will do include putting up anti-union posters in common areas including restrooms, sending texts and emails to employees highlighting reasons for voting no, and conducting captive audience meetings where employees are forced to sit in a room and listen to a presentation about why the union is bad. These meetings are filled with lies about the union and talking points like the union is just here for your dues money. They also use these meetings to identify workers who are sympathetic to the union and speak up against the lies.

While these captive audience meetings are quite common it is rare that the average person gets to experience one. However, during a recent meeting at Start Elevator in the Bronx, New York, workers decided to stream their captive audience meeting live on Facebook and then post it to Youtube.

In the video, the meeting is being led by Mike Penn who is from the consulting firm The Crossroad Group. Penn is a widely used union avoidance consultant who has been brought in to bust unions at companies like Columbia Sportswear and XPO logistics. According to The Intercept Penn, who claims to be an ex-Teamster, is paid around $400 an hour to host these meetings. According to a video filmed by an organizer with the union, Penn is receiving a pension from his time as a Teamster while he makes bank busting unions.

While it might seem like Penn is skilled at rebuffing the questions the workers have, everything he is saying is directly out of the Union-Busting Playbook. This is something that the workers at Start Elevator clearly saw and were unwilling to listen to Penn’s bullshit, instead of pushing back on his lies. Like a typical rat that he is, Penn tried to hide his disgusting behavior by telling the workers to stop filming him, but they would have none of it.

According to Labor Labs, which sent UCOMM the video, these workers are organizing with the International Union of Elevator Constructors (IUEC) Local 1. Since Penn showed up the union has been responding passionately and supporters from other building trade unions have rallied outside of the company to let them know that this type of behavior is not welcomed in New York.

Since it is rare to get a video of what goes on in a captive audience meeting, this video is vital for unions to learn from and message around. Although Penn may have tailored his remarks to convince elevator constructors to vote no, it is very similar to the message he would give to warehouse workers at Columbia, or another union buster would give to your non-union workplace. With this video, our unions can now tailor a new message to the workers to refute some of the lies that union-busters like Mike Penn are being paid $400 an hour to spew.

Even with an increase in worker action in 2021, union-busting is still rampant. According to Labor Lab’s Union-Busting tracker, over 200 employers have taken part in busting a union in 2021, with many of them succeeding in stopping their workforces from organizing.

Labor Lab has provided UCOMM a full transcript of the video. Click here to read.

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